Dryclean Dave
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Learn more about Dryclean Dave and Uptowne Drycleaning, Inc.

DAVE'S DESK is an editorial section that Dave will update from time to time with his viewpoint on various drycleaning-related subjects. If you have any suggestions for topics you would like to see covered here or to offer your commentary on any particular editorial subject, TELL DAVE!


My family has been in the drycleaning business since the late 1920's and for all of three generations. I learned this trade from my father, who was taught by his father, both of whom were certified at NID (pre-IFI, National Institute of Drycleaning), and both of whom have contributed to the level of instruction in cleaning and spotting and to the old-school customer service philosophy from which I have been trained.
Mr. Silliman Sr. rings in 2000!
Dryclean Dave's Spotting Technique
In our family business, Uptowne Drycleaning, Inc., we are members of the Better Business Bureau, as well as our industry's local and national trade organizations, WSDLA (Western States Drycleaners and Launderers Association), and IFI (International Fabricare Institute). We feel it is important to maintain these affiliations so that we are always currently informed regarding the latest business and industry tips, techniques and problems. We utilize two complete solvent systems, petroleum and perchlorethylene, so that we have the flexibility to choose whichever solvent best suits any particular application. We enjoy an excellent reputation as a high-end, full service drycleaning and laundry establishment; we are accessible, knowledgeable, experienced and well prepared
in our industry. That, however, does not change the status quo. We still must cope with a frustratingly common problem.
Every day I have to defend myself regarding problems that occur with textile products in the drycleaning or laundry care process. Why? Because when a customer brings in a garment to be serviced and returns to find the garment has in some way become damaged, most people find it very difficult to accept the fact that someone other than their drycleaner may be responsible for damage that becomes apparent only after the garment has been drycleaned or laundered. Instead of asking what may have caused the damage and who should be responsible, they look directly at me and draw their own conclusions. For example, instead of asking me why their spandex slacks may have shrunk in the drycleaning, they are sure I washed them by mistake. Instead of asking me why the dye in their multi-colored silk shirt has bled into another color, they assume I cleaned it in "dirty solvent". Instead of asking me why there is discoloration around the collar of their blouse, they believe I used improper spotting techniques. Instead of asking me why the cuffs on their shirt are starting to fray, they are convinced I scorched them with a hot iron. Instead of asking me why the color of their new spread no longer matches the color of the drapes, they are sure I mishandled it in some way. It is literally day after day of "put up your dukes", and I'm not kidding here, folks. Give the drycleaner the benefit of the doubt? I don't think so. Trust that he is telling you the truth? Not very often. It is like this every day in the drycleaning business. Why? It is the "taken to the cleaners" mentality that has developed over many years.

The Garment Industry Textile Chain

The Manufacturer Link
The Retailer Link
The Consumer Link
The Drycleaner Link

Over the years, drycleaners have been taking the fall for mislabeled and poorly made garments from the manufacturers and for damage caused by use or misuse at home by consumers. A manufacturer defect which causes colors to bleed - a broken link at the manufacturer level - or a wayward spray of cologne - a broken link at the consumer level - will result in a broken chain, no matter how strong the drycleaner link remains. The drycleaner however, is most likely to be present when the damage or defect is discovered. Thus, fault is almost invariably assigned to the most accessible link - not necessarily the broken link.

Sure, you say. Don't I think drycleaners have contributed to their own derogatory reputation? Oh, absolutely! There have been, and still are, many drycleaners who lack the necessary skills to do the job properly, and who could handle customer service problems more thoroughly and delicately. There are, however, many of us who try our best every day to provide excellent service and a premium product. Unfortunately, the trust and respect we receive from our customers is minimal.
Consider the following example:
Let us assume you have purchased an expensive garment from a well-respected national retailer. It passes from the manufacturer, to the retailer, to you - or from link 1, to link 2, to link 3 in the chain. You wear it happily and, eventually, take it to your drycleaner, link 4, to be serviced. The dye runs, or it shrinks, or the buttons melt, or the colors fade or two pieces of a suit don't match. When you return to pick up the garment, your drycleaner tells you that, although the damage was sustained during the care process, he followed the manufacturers instructions on the care label but the garment did not properly withstand the prescribed care procedure. Furthermore, he tells you it is a manufacturing problem and the garment should be returned to the retailer.
"But I paid a FORTUNE for that suit!!"Usually, the conversation quickly deteriorates from this point and a defensive posture is taken by both you and the drycleaner. You say, "Don't you know I paid a FORTUNE for that garment, and I bought it at ABC department store, and this was the FIRST TIME it was cleaned?" Your drycleaner simply apologizes and repeats the facts. You don't trust that he is telling you the truth. Your drycleaner has not mishandled your garment in any way, but you do not feel confident in his explanation and assessment of the damage. Any way you look at it, and whoever is really at fault, this is a hassle you do not need. You do not want to return the garment to the store.
From this point the customers' reactions vary - some will say it was not like that when I brought it to you, therefore it's your problem. Some will pound on the counter in front of other customers and demand immediate reimbursement. And for the small percentage that agree to return the garment to the retailer, half of the time a salesperson at the store will still say it was the drycleaners' fault. Then what do you do? Nobody wants to be taken advantage of or made to look foolish. So, even though the responsibility for this problem lies completely with the manufacturer (link 1), it becomes mired in a funk between links 2, 3 and 4, and never makes it back to 1. Naturally, the bad guy is the last guy - the drycleaner. It becomes a negative, no-win situation. Taken to the cleaners.
Let us assume you have a favorite rayon shirt that you save for special occasions. It fits you perfectly and it has been drycleaned many times; however, this time when you pick up the shirt, there are spots of color loss along the top of the collar. They weren't there when you left the shirt for service, and you believe your drycleaner has somehow mishandled the care process; however, he says that he thinks it is probably chemical damage from your after-shave or cologne, and that the damaged color wasn't rinsed out until the shirt was drycleaned. You think…probably? Defensive positions are assumed. It becomes a negative, no-win situation. Taken to the cleaners.

Let us assume your wife sends you to the drycleaner to pick up a silk blouse she wore under a blazer at the office. When you get home, she becomes upset that you would not inspect it before accepting it from the drycleaner. She claims that since it was perfect before and now there are wrinkles under the arms, they have ruined it by pressing it with a hot iron. So, back you go. Your drycleaner explains that when silk gets wet with perspiration, fibers are stretched and damaged. Wrinkles or puckers form when the fabric dries, and there is nothing that can be done to reverse the damage. Your wife says that's a bunch of baloney. So defensive positions are assumed. It becomes a negative, no-win situation. Taken to the cleaners.

I could go on and on and on. I have experienced more of these situations than I care to remember, and I'm sure every other drycleaner would agree. With the introduction of a single problem, regardless of customer tenure or loyalty, this attitude affects people of every educational and professional level, causes reasonable people to become unreasonable and creates a strange dichotomy of competence, i.e., before the problem, I'm the expert - after the problem, I don't know squat. Go figure… Anyway, I do believe this "taken to the cleaners" cliché is a bad rap on many hardworking drycleaners and, although I am sure some of the reputation is justified, the other side of the coin should be "made out like a manufacturer".

The next time you experience a problem with your drycleaner, don't jump to a hasty conclusion. Utilize your drycleaner's expertise. Use common sense. Read through our Damage & Responsibility section or ask Dryclean Dave! Let the proper party take the fall.

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